With just nine seconds left in the game, the Wizards were in as good of a position as they could have hoped to be. They were down the entire game, by as much as 12, continuously clawing back within a few points before the Hawks inevitably reopened the lead. But one final late fury brought the deficit down to three, and a defensive rebound and timeout gave Wizards coach Randy Wittman the chance to design a game-tying play.
Now, normally the words “Randy Wittman” and “designing a play” don’t inspire great confidence, but Playoff Randy is a very real phenomenon. During the two previous timeouts, Wittman-designed plays got the Wizards quick, easy buckets. Playoff Randy was in top form.
And he did it for a third time too! Paul Pierce—he of the game-winning banked, fadeaway, 20-foot jumper over two defenders—came around a brutal Nene screen and found himself wide open behind the three-point line. So wide open that he did a little double-clutch and set his feet. But alas, Pierce missed a shot much easier than the one he made two days ago. The Wizards probably even deserved one last desperation chance, as they trapped Kyle Korver and caused a travel on the ensuing inbounds, but the referees’s whistles did not cooperate.
With John Wall’s hand dressed in a brace and his body in street clothes, the Wizards were always going to have some difficulties. But Bradley Beal almost made up for his backcourt mate’s absence with perhaps the best game of his career, scoring 34 points and racking up six rebounds and seven assists. The non-Korver trio of Hawks stars—Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague—all showed up for the first time this series, giving them just enough firepower to survive.
The series is tied 2-2, and everything has been a disjointed mess. The Hawks were clearly the better regular season team, but have continued their meh performance from the first round. Playoff Randy’s Wizards looked like a juggernaut through the first five games of the playoffs, but they’ve come back down to earth, and are now missing their best player for an indefinite period of time. If we’re lucky, this series will come down to the final few seconds of game seven, and the ball will once again be in Paul Pierce’s hands.
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